Mehdi Maghsoodnia

Mehdi Maghsoodnia

CEO, Rafter
San Francisco

About Me

I’m on the board of Fotomoto, NatureAir and PBworks and have worked for a number of other Internet companies, including CafePress, Presidio Systems and Spherelink. Currently I am the CEO of Rafter, an educational technology company that makes a platform that drives savings for students by providing schools with an efficient way to manage everything having to do with course materials.

Investment Strategy

The business must provide an actual unique solution to a problem in the market. I also look for companies that go after large markets, like education, advertising, or mobile. Lastly, I look for companies with strong leadership. The management team is the inspirational, guiding and stabilizing force of a company.

Portfolio Companies

I focus on early-stage technology companies and have invested in actiance, fotomoto, grouply, tubemogul, pbworks and bookrenter
I invested in BookRenter as it was disrupting significant purchasing of books from traditional model to rental. I invested TubeMogul because a smart team was figuring a way to help video producers monetize their production in a fast growing market. I sometimes invest in early stage startups in interesting markets. Those investments are small and it is mostly to educate myself about the dynamics of early markets.

Common Mistakes Startups Make and How to Avoid Them

The biggest mistake startups make is being too impatient. Success rarely, if ever, happens overnight. BookRenter, for example, launched in 2007, but did not become wildly successful until 2009; it took years for the business to grow. Entrepreneurs must understand that the big problems actually worth solving will not be solved in a year or two. Time, patience, adjustments and perseverance are necessary.

Attributes I Look for in an Entrepreneur
A good founder views a world that’s a better place when they’re gone than it was before they arrived, due largely to the product/service their company is delivering. I look for founders with this mentality - people that strive to make the world a better place. They see problems around them worth solving. They are never satisfied with status quo and think things can be better. They must have an internal standard that exceeds the standards of their surrounding and peers. They must be dreamers.  
A good founder is also an inspirational and motivating leader, and motivates others to join his adventures and journey. A great founder always has the ability to attract talented people to their cause and surround him or herself with talent. Getting and keeping talented people implies a lot of emotional intelligence, knowing when to listen, when to push and when to sit back and let others lead.
Most Popular Types of Businesses in India at the Moment
To be honest, don't ever start a company in the segment that is popular today unless your time to exit is short. If you want to build a company and sell it in 24 months then look at current trends. If you want to build a large company and change the world then ignore what is popular or trendy because by the time you have built anything interesting the trends would have changed at least twice. Following trends is good for hit-driven businesses and not sustainable and massive businesses. If you want to build the next Google or Facebook then follow your intuition. Find a problem worth solving and go after it and ignore the experts. Most experts would have loved to be the Steve Jobs or Bill Gates but they could not so they ended up setting up shops and selling their advice.
Thoughts on First Angel, Follow-on Investments and Offerings to an Angel Investor
I don't like to be the first investor. I like to see if the founders have been able to chart some of the challenges of bringing a team together and getting the product off the ground. I do reserve money for follow-up investments. There is no science to funding. It is very specific to markets, people and the dynamic of the team. It is a service-oriented business so you have to look at it case-by-case. Finally, I do not think that angels should sit on a company's board unless they have specific industry or operational expertise that is relevant to the company. Otherwise, it's better for an angel to sit back and let the experts help guide the company.